EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Getting Back on Track

There I was, happily browsing through the websites of Historifigs, SpencerSmith/Jacklex and Reviresco looking at 1/72 figures, guns and vehicles and wondering where to get the makings of a train that would fit the grid, and I starting thinking about various inspirations and some past train games in 54mm and 40mm.  Next thing you know I had some of my old Britain's on the table. Then I had one of those "uhoh here we go again" moments. Its only been a month since I called myself on allowing unresolved issues and various shiny, easy, distractions to draw me away from what I want to be doing but almost 2 years since I started  musing about 40mm Boer War/WWI toy soldiers and 3 years since I started fooling around with big figures on a grid.  

Time to address some of those issues and get on with the toy soldiers again, or let it go and get off the pot, so to speak.
OK now it'll fit! I guess it needs a bit more work though.
Why I am so attracted to the combination of grid and toy soldiers (in a technical sense vs miniatures) has been a bit of a mystery to me. I think partly that it is because a gridded game is so obviously a game rather than a form of diorama and toy soldier style figures are so obviously toys not serious models that the two complement each other, but that's not all of it. In some fashion the grid seems to enhance our ability to distance ourselves from the direct, literal interpretation of what we see and to accept a higher level of abstraction.  In my own case that distance makes me more comfortable with smaller units and shorter ranges so that actually makes it ideal for larger figures.  (And yes it has taken 3 years for my intellect to catch up to my instinct on this)


2011 Little Wars meets Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame.
Two of the things that have kept me from jumping in have been uncertainty about coming up with suitable terrain that would fit 40mm figures and trying to figure out how to  fit 40m wagons and trains into a grid so that I can continue to play the convoy and ambush games that are a favorite of mine. 

Selecting the 4" grid was based in part on experiments which show that a handful of my houses will fit and I can easily do more. Similar experiments proved that a 2 wheeled cart can fit one square as do  a pair of pack animals giving me 2 options, 3 if I include a few wagons I have that will fit in 1 square with a horse team in an adjacent square. That just left the train but I just happened to have a 2nd, pristine, battery operated toy train and I figured if they can bash kits in Little England, I should be able to bash a toy in Belmont. Out came saw, screwdriver and other assorted implements. (see above).

40mm toy soldier style Boer War is back on the menu.

A non gridded train game from 2012

The next post will discuss Sunday's 40mm Atlantica Square Brigadier game with some discussion of the rules, some examples of play and some thoughts on organization and period differences.




16 comments:

  1. I find it is surprisingly difficult to follow my own instincts, even though I'm pretty sure it is the route to happier wargaming, and there is a lot of accumulated mental baggage obstructing the path. So, for example, being a recent convert to grids/hexes on a smaller table, I find myself automatically assuming I must use smaller figures, squeezing as many into the square or hex as possible, but I don't in my heart of hearts really want to, so there's soon a built-in drag or brake on progress.

    So, with regard to grids and toy soldiers, I'd say go for it.

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    1. Steve, oddly enough my 1/72 ACW armies are now based and organized so that I can fit an 18 man regiment in a square, 2 if a 2nd regiment is in close support. When it came down to putting 18 or so such units on the table, I opted for 4 man companies of late 19thC toy soldiers fighting in extended order. I suspect the others are there partly for internal credibility.

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  2. Ross, I just went to the Blue River rebellion link; I think I know where I got my idea for the "Train Ambush" posted on Wargame Hermit! John

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    1. Yeah I've had a thing for trains since I was a kid but the scenario is on of C S Grant's Tabletop Teasers from the 70s.

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  3. Ross Mac,

    I have re-read your comments several times because they encapsulate so much of my own thinking ... but expressed with great clarity and brevity that I could have hoped to have achieved.

    I also like your 'new' locomotive model. It looks just right for use with larger-scale figures.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. Thanks Bob. I have high hopes for the finished item.

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  4. It's like real life. Wait for long enough and there will be a post featuring a train.

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    1. For my next act I'll wait for my compressed steam ship to come in.

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  5. I have been claiming that the big figures are appealing for nostalgia's sake, but felt deep down there was something more. You articulated that "something more". Thank you!

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    1. Glad to hear that John. Good to see someone playing Chain Reaction as well.

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  6. I think you've identified another axis in wargaming, the realist vs the toy axis. I myself am still oriented towards realism, but I see the attraction in toy/old school gaming and in rules and gridded systems that call attention to that aspect, in the same way that the HG Wells Little Wars school does. That being said, I would dearly love a train as part of one of my games.

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    1. I have been down the other road long long ago and can still appreciate that approach as well.

      What you need Mike is an O scale/gauge western train, a western town, some skirmish rules, 28mm Rebs and dismounted yankee cavalry led by a small John Wayne.

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  7. "I think you've identified another axis in wargaming, the realist vs the toy axis"

    nothing wrong with doing both.

    I recall Major General Rederring's website which seemed to be able to encapsulate both toy soldier and realism


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  8. Interesting post, Ross. As a Morschauser convert (with thanks to Bob Cordery and John Curry), I feel that there are a good few, practical, empirical, Anglo-American philosophical arguments in favour, i.e., it works. Easy to set up, a very flexible approach, enough figures for the all important 'look' of the thing, but not too many to induce tedium, effective initiative generation (especially important for the solo wargamer), and no measuring. I'm glad the grid returned.

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    1. Having initially met Morschauser in 2003 through his book not his later articles I don't automatically link him to squares but even so he has been a source of inspiration ever since.

      Let the games begin.

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